With the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual conference finishing on Sunday morning 30th June, I had three days to fill in before returning to New York on the 3rd July. Although totally unplanned, I had a few ideas:
· Stay on at Hartford, see the sights and do some writing
· Go back to New York City early – there was still plenty to see
· Visit Boston and generally have a look around the New England region
On Saturday afternoon I asked Suzette if there was any chance of us catching up before I headed back to Australia on July 10th. To my unexpected delight, Suzette invited me to stay with her and her family for a few days immediately following the conference.
Sunday morning I had breakfast with the effervescent Joani from Chicago, who also invited me to come and stay with her if I possibly could before heading home.
Suzette and conference coordinator extraordinaire, Luenna and I motored out of Hartford just after 10.30am Sunday morning. We stopped for a quick lunch before Luenna dropped us at Suzette’s lovely home in Milton before heading off to catch her flight from Boston.
Suzette’s daughter Star and husband Joe plus their two beautiful daughters, Bella and Lulu arrived later in the afternoon. That evening Suzette and I drove down to Cape Cod to spend the next three nights along with Star, Bella, Lulu and Suzette’s husband, David, at their summer home near Falmouth.
Cape Cod is the easternmost tip of the New England state of Massachusetts, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean and includes the large islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Settled by English colonists in 1660, the town of Falmouth is now a popular summer destination about 124km south of Boston.
After the sensory overload of New York and the action-packed NSNC Conference at Hartford, the tranquillity of Suzette and David’s beautiful Cape Cod home was a welcome relief. It was great just to talk with Suzette that evening and swap our life stories.
The next morning I joined Suzette, Bella and Lulu on a walk with Mojo the dog – Suzette’s adorable sixteen year old beagle/cocker spaniel cross before spending a pleasant couple of hours writing… that’s one of the best things about staying with a fellow writer – you don’t have to explain yourself or feel guilty for not talking for an hour or so.
Later we took the girls for a walk to one of the nearby beaches; Suzette pointed out Bourne Pond along the way and explained the joys of “clamming”. A favourite summer pastime for many residents and visitors to Cape Cod, clamming involves wading around in knee-deep water with a clam rake and floating bucket. Once you’ve raked up your quota of fresh clams, you can return to the kitchen and cook them up in innumerable ways – from simply fresh; steamed; stuffed; fried; grilled or cooked up in a chowder (a thick soup or seafood stew).
Like me, Suzette loves to cook and her kitchen at her summer home certainly reflects this. I offered to cook a traditional Australian roast lamb dinner for Suzette’s family while I was staying with them as a way of saying thank you.
A trip to the supermarket that afternoon saw me amassing most of the ingredients I required: potato, sweet potato; butternut pumpkin; onions; tomatoes; green beans and sugar snap peas; mint; rosemary; sage; basil; garlic and lemons. Finding the lamb took a little hunting. A second trip to Falmouth the following day and I managed to get two fresh, butterflied (boned-out) legs of American lamb.
Growing up on my parent’s sheep station, lamb but more often, mutton was a staple food; we ate it twice a day, seven days a week. Every Sunday without fail my mother roasted to perfection, a delicious leg of mutton for midday dinner.
The key to a good roast is to take your time and cook it slowly. Inserting slices of garlic and sprigs of rosemary into little pockets I’d cut into the lamb, then squeezing generous quantities of fresh lemon juice all over, I placed the meat into the oven to roast at 150°C for about three hours… then headed outside for a hit of tennis with Suzette and David.
With Suzette kindly offering to be my sous chef for the afternoon, together we prepared the vegetables. The secret to great roast vegetables is to par-boil them first in salted water for a few minutes before transferring them to an oven dish, smearing them in butter and popping them into the oven for a couple of hours. Saving the salted vegetable water to make the gravy with later.
I also made a tomato pie – a simple dish of chopped fresh tomatoes and onions mixed together with some finely chopped fresh basil with slices of bread torn up over the top and baked for an hour or so. With steamed fresh beans and sugar snap peas as our greens of choice, the feast was completed with homemade gravy and fresh mint sauce.
I may have introduced Suzette, David, Star, Bella and Lulu to the joys of rural Australian-style lamb roast dinner but Suzette and David introduced me to the epicurean delights of the fresh lobster roll.
Our second trip into Falmouth to find the elusive legs of lamb had us stopping by a local café for lunch. There I was introduced to what I suspect could be America’s greatest ever sandwich creation and certainly a noble contribution to world cuisine… the lobster roll.
The freshest and most lightly toasted hotdog roll, generously buttered and then stuffed full with great chunks of fresh Maine lobster and mayonnaise; this culinary masterpiece is enjoyed all up and down the New England coastline.
My time with Suzette and her family passed all too quickly and I felt as though I had made lifelong friends. Somewhat reluctantly at 6.30am on Wednesday 3rd July, I caught the bus from Falmouth back to New York…
|With our matching Macbook computers and mutual love of cooking, Suzette and I were clearly destined to meet.|